In my last post, I spoke of an epistemological category called “Logical Necessity”, and suggested that it being missed or downplayed in philosophical circles has led to the downfall of many epistemological systems. As a quick refresher, epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies truth criteria; it aims to study the nature of truth and to identify the proper criteria for judging particular ideas as either true or false. In a way, epistemology is thinking about your thinking; analyzing your process of analysis - to be sure that your analysis is as accurate as possible.
Think about that for just a moment: Any method of analysis must, itself, be accurate. If you attempt to use a faulty method of analysis, the conclusions of your analysis will always be skewed. Epistemology is the most general method of analysis; it analyzes, shapes and defines every other method of analysis (science, history, morality, etc..) because it analyzes and identifies the nature of the thing which all of those others depend upon: truth. Notice, though, that epistemology is, itself, a method of analysis -- in fact, it is the method of analysis. Imagine the ideological (and therefore practical) destruction which might ensue if one’s epistemological principles were not accurate. Nothing else in one’s thought world (and therefore in one’s life) could be certain, accurate, or fully in tune with objective reality. Hopefully you are not only beginning to see the significance of epistemology, but also the grave importance of ensuring that you have an accurate epistemology - an accurate method of defining and identifying truth.
And that is where epistemology must be turned in on itself, so to speak. One’s epistemological principles must, themselves, be analyzed for accuracy. How is an epistemological principle determined to be accurate or not? We will begin to touch on that in the next post, however in this post, I want to point out what should be obvious: that one’s epistemological principles ought to at least stand up to their own criteria. I want to encourage everyone to get into the habit of testing epistemological principles by first asking “does that principle at least stand up to its own standards? If we apply that standard to to the principle, itself, does it stand or fall?” If an epistemological principle cannot even stand up to its own demands, then how on earth could it possibly be used accurately as a standard for all other truth? The answer: it can’t. Going through this simple process will automatically eliminate a whole host of epistemological errors and free you from years of unnecessary confusion.
Why do I bring this up in talking about logical necessity? Because every epistemological system which attempts to deny logical necessity fails to stand up to its own professed criteria. Here are a few examples:
1) “Only that which is falsifiable can be considered true”. Is that proposition falsifiable? Can you falsify the idea that all truth is falsifiable?
2) “Only that which is empirically observable can be considered true.” Is that proposition empirically observable? Can you empirically observe all truth being empirically observable?
3) “Only that which is reducible to perception can be considered true.” Is that proposition reducible to perception? Can you reduce “all truth being reducible to perception” to perception?
Notice the important qualifiers in each of these: they are claiming to apply to all ideas or to all truth (which means that they must obviously apply to themselves as well). If one wished to say “some truth is falsifiable”, or “those things which are empirically observable can be considered true”, or “most truth is reducible to perception”, then there would be no inherent contradiction, and one could use further means of establishing the accuracy of these principles. But as it is, all of them fall immediately under the weight of their own demands - and are therefore unfit principles for universally judging all other ideas.
Ironically, though, these self-contradicting principles reign supremely in most of what is considered to be the “rational” and “academic” circles of our day. You will find very few legitimate intellectual institutions today which do not operate primarily off of one (or more) of the above epistemological assumptions (or some variant thereof) - totally ignorant of the fact that their entire worldview is founded on a glaring contradiction.
How did principles which appear to be so obviously contradictory become so popularly championed among apparent intellectual authorities? Well, charitably, a lot of it is likely oversight: many just don’t think to ask such obvious questions, like “does this supposed all-encompassing principle meet its own standards?”. But that amount of charity cannot be extended to all. There are many who should have (and likely did) know to ask such questions, but refused to - for fear that some very uncomfortable ideas might be let into the room. Ideas like theism. And ultimately, you will find that the dogmatic insistence with which many so stubbornly hold to such epistemological principles (one’s which discard or deny logical necessity) is rooted in a deep-seated desperation to ban any form of theism as inherently irrational. In other words, many of today’s supposed champions of rationality are often consumed and driven by the very emotional (i.e. non-rational) need for reality to be God-less. They know (even if subconsciously) that to allow for logical necessity is to allow for theism - and that, above all, must be avoided.
Stay tuned for a reasoned defense of logical necessity.